Unusual South Carolina Attractions
South Carolina is a southern state rich in history and beautiful scenic views. But the state is also home to some unusual attractions, odd natural wonders, and quirky characters. Some of the weirdest places to visit within the state include a roadside Mexican theme park, a balancing rock, some bizarre artwork, and more! Here are 10 of the most unusual sites and locations that are available for visitors to the state to check out. Most are suitable for families.
South of the Border
located off US Highway 301 outside of Dillon SC
South of the Border has been a popular roadside stop for over 50 years, welcoming road-worn travelers to spend a few hours and a few pesos at the tourist attraction. South of the SC/NC border, travelers along I 95 are entertained by numerous humorous billboards advertising the roadside attraction from Virginia all the way down to Georgia. A typical billboard also lets travelers know how many miles it is before they reach the park. The park’s mascot, Pedro, usually offers a humorous comment along the lines of ‘you never sausage a place.’ The park sometimes has as many as 175 billboards along the roadsides at one time. During recent years, complaints were made about the slogans on the billboards, which were viewed as negative to Hispanics by the Mexican embassy. As a result, the billboards were gradually replaced to ensure that they were politically correct.
South of the Border features includes a 200-foot high observation tower shaped like a huge sombrero, numerous rides for the kids, and its newest attraction, Reptile Lagoon. The reptile exhibit is rumored to be the largest reptile exhibit in the United States that is located indoors. There are several places to eat on-site, serving food ranging from hotdogs to steak dinners, as well as a campground and a motor inn. There are many iconic places on the premises which provide an excellent backdrop for family photos. South of the Border offers families an opportunity to stop after a long journey to stretch their legs, let the kids work off some energy, and get a bite to eat.
Peachtree rock preserve
outside Edmund community in Lexington SC
One of the most unusual natural wonders in the state is found at Peachtree Rock Heritage Preserve. Peachtree Rock, a giant rock made out of sandstone, is shaped like an inverted pyramid and stands over 20 feet tall. Many marine fossils are found within the preserve, a testament to the fact that this area used to be the actual coastline of South Carolina.
The reserve rambles over 450 acres, with 7.5 miles of trails for hiking and exploring. Visitors can also hike to a natural waterfall that tumbles into a creek, which is a great place to cool off after spending a warm day exploring the area. Be sure to bring drinking water and snacks along for the hike, as well as a good pair of walking shoes.
UFO Welcome Center
Bowman resident Jody Pendarvis became convinced that someday aliens would travel to South Carolina and decided that they would need a place to stay. He began construction on what has become known as the UFO Welcome Center. Built of wood, fiberglass and concrete, Pendarvis constructed a 42-foot wide flying saucer in his backyard in order to welcome galactic visitors and provide them with a resting place after their long journey.
The welcome center lodging is fully self-contained: Galactic visitors will feel right at home, as the pod has a bed and bathroom. The aliens will even be able to keep up with the local news, as Pendarvis has also outfitted the room with a television. Visitors are asked to call Pendarvis to pre-arrange a visit to the UFO Welcome Center. Admission is charged for entry into the pod.
Big Monetta Drive-In Movie Theater
Located outside Monetta, SC stands one of the few operating drive-in movie theatres in South Carolina. Featuring three huge movie screens, Big Mo, as it is affectionately known to locals, can accommodate a great many vehicles, showing two different features per screen. The audio for the movies is played through a radio station, so there’s no need to sit in a hot stuffy car; most visitors pack beach chairs, blankets and bug spray in order to spend the evening under the stars. Big Mo has a couple of concession stands available as well as fully-equipped restrooms for patrons. Movies are typically shown Friday, Saturday and Sunday night, with the movies beginning at dark.
Patrons line up hours earlier, however, in order to enjoy an entire evening at the movies. Visitors are treated to some of the original commercials typically shown at drive-in movies during the 1950s, and the national anthem in played on the movie theater’s main screen before the first movie is shown. Coolers and food are allowed, although alcoholic beverages and grills are prohibited.
Lawn Mower Races
Lawnmowers are not just for mowing grass anymore! One of the strangest vehicle races in the world is found in South Carolina. Lawnmower racing, where the racers race around a course lined with hay bales, is a true oddity. The grass cutting blades are removed from the lawnmowers in order to make them as safe as possible, and there are additional rules in place to ensure that the races proceed safely.
Phat Bottom Speedway is a family-friendly speedway featuring riding lawnmower races. The speedway features races for kids as well as adults, and there are also lessons available. Concessions are served and this location is marketed as a great place for the family to spend the day.
Civitas, the controversial statues
Rock Hill, SC
Four towering bronze statues of women dressed in flowing togas are to be found at the Gateway Plaza on Dave Lyle Boulevard in Rock Hill. These women are collectively called the Civitas. Each woman holds a reminder of things that improved the economy of the area: industry, knowledge, inspiration, and energy.
After the statues were erected in 1991, some of the locals complained that the 22-foot tall statues were too provocative, as the gowns revealed too much of the statuesque women’s physiques. As a result, the statues were altered to satisfy the complainants.
Hollywild Animal Park
Hollywild Animal Park located in Wellford SC offers visitors the opportunity to meet some Hollywood movie stars in person. This wild animal park contains a wide variety of animals who are not indigenous to the state, many of which have starred in advertisements, movies and videos. The animal stars include Tank, the world’s only working rhinoceros as well as majestic Siberian tigers that have had roles in numerous movies and commercials.
Chewy, one of the park’s lions, even served as the inspiration for the character of Scar, the villainous lion in Disney’s The Lion King. Visitors to the park can take a safari ride through the park among the park’s residents and then try their hand at bottle-feeding some of the babies that are found throughout the property. There are concessions available at the park. The park owners are dedicating to educating the public, so there are numerous opportunities for visitors to learn about the various animals within the park boundaries.
Largest fire hydrant
What is reputedly the world’s largest fire hydrant is located in downtown Columbia. The giant 39-foot tall hydrant is called Busted Plug Plaza, is complete with shooting water which is recirculated so the sculpture is considered technically a ‘fountain.’ The gigantic sculpture was created by local artist Blue Sky in 2001. The fire hydrant towers over visitors, providing fantastic photo opportunities.
There is a ‘no dogs allowed’ sign included as part of the sculpture, adding another touch of whimsy to this incredible piece of art. While visiting the hydrant, visitors can also see the artist’s famous mural Tunnelvision painted on a nearby wall. From a distance, the mural creates the illusion that it is a tunnel that can be driven through. Upon closer examination, however, it becomes clear that this is a piece of art, not a real tunnel!
Bishopville resident Dalton Stevens, suffering from insomnia, began sewing and gluing buttons onto objects as a means to pass the time during the long nights of sleeplessness. Since the 1980s he has covered objects such as clothing, guitars, and even vehicles with thousands upon thousands of buttons. The button-covered items soon filled his home, and a museum was created to display them to the public.
The Button King has appeared on many talk shows, including The Today Show and Letterman. The artist plans to be buried in one of his unique creations: A button-embellished coffin. To date, the museum is free to visit, although Stevens accepts donations.
Fried Green Tomato Festival
Beech Island, SC
South Carolina is home to many strange festivals, including events that honor chitlins (deep-fried hog intestines), grits, peanuts, peaches and poultry. But The Iron Horse Bar & Grill, located in Beech Island, SC, created its own unusual festival based upon the humble yet delicious southern specialty, the fried green tomato. A popular motorcycle bar, the Iron Horse serves platters of fried green tomatoes during the festival, which is held in late summer. Featuring live bands, lots of tomatoes, karaoke, dancing, and a classic car and motorcycle show, this festival is one of the most unusual in the state.
South Carolina has many weird places to visit, any one of which makes a great day trip destination. From the mountains to the sea, visitors are sure to find a unique experience that would make their trip through South Carolina memorable.